02 March 2007

How much are you worth dead?

Last night my son was watching a TV programme about air crashes, and the relations between airlines and the families of passengers who have been killed in air crashes. I wasn't paying all that much attention, just looking occasionally to see what came up.

The general thrust of the programme was that the airlines treated the families of killed and injured passengers badly -- that they were evasive, and often harsh and cruel. Where there was prima facie evidence of negligence on the part of the airline, the airline sought by every means to play it down, and forced those claiming compensation to prove negligence beyond any doubt, while not giving them access to the evidence. This led to protracted legal battles, and prolonged the suffering of the relatives of victims.

But then they suddenly went over the top, and my sympathy switched to the airlines. They introduced a psychiatrist who described the stress put on the body by the g-force in an aircraft crash, and the pain suffered by the victims in the nanoseconds before they lost consciousness and died. This psychiatrist apparently gave this kind of evidence in compensation cases, and it was the intention to increase the compensation. Of course the same kind of pain is suffered by victims of car crashes, and I wonder if people have taken to sueing the driver at fault if negligence can be proved? But if the victimes are dead, they cannot be compensated. The living relatives can be compensated for the loss they have suffered but how can they be compensated for someone else's pain, and how can they demand it? It seems toally unjust, and almost ghoulish.

How can a society that bombs people out of house and home without a qualm, that aborts thousands of children without a second thought, suddenly turn around and seek to put an enormously high value on a couple of nanosecond of pain for people who are dead? It seems to be a world in which values have got completely distorted.

Can anyone explain?

1 comment:

Michael Westmoreland-White, Ph.D. said...

Excellent questions. I like the way you pose critical questions. I have a tendency too much to pontificate answers and tell readers to take action, now! Posing questions may be much more helpful. I'll try to learn.


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